Relais de Chambord
last update: 24 May 2022
We have visited the Relais de Chambord three times. Our first visit was included in a visit report on the château made in 2019. Our second visit in May 2022 is fully reported on below, and at the end of this webpage, we have updated our report after our third visit in late December 2022.
In May 2022 were driving up through France from San Sebastián, and we were looking for a 5-star or high-quality 4-star hotel for an overnight stay, which included secure parking, etc. Then I remembered that we had already stayed at the Relais de Chambord, and again it was the right hotel in the right place.
Above we have a Google Map/Google Earth of the site and location of the hotel, but dating from some considerable time ago. The hotel 'square' has been closed with a modern built 4th side, a very pleasant terrace now overlooks the château, and there is a secure entrance and parking near the hotel. The only thing that remains more or less up-to-date is the constant repair work to the château roof.
This report is on the hotel, and not on a visit to the château.
The hotel has a 4-star rating and is one of the Small Luxury Hotels. In May 2022 Booking gave it a 8.7 (Fabulous) based upon 1,336 reviews (9.8 for location), whereas in December 2022 it "scored" an 8.6 (Fabulous) still based also on 1,336 reviews.
In May 2022 Tripadvisor gave it a 4.0 (Very Good), based upon 528 reviews, whereas in December 2022 it retained its 4.0 based upon 604 reviews.
Our visit in May 2022
The car GPS just needed the address Place Saint Louis, Chambord, and it took us right to the entrance to the château and hotel. You needed to buzz through to the hotel reception to gain access, but then we could see a porter waving us up to the hotel main entrance.
Bags were taken, and the porter took the car to the parking, promising to wash the windscreen and windows (which he did).
Looking at the front façade of the hotel our room in May 2022 was on the corner to the right, whereas in December 2022 it was a room with a full length window on the top floor.
Reception was friendly and efficient, and we were shown to our room. It was a corner room on the first floor (with windows on two sides). The only problem was that they took our bags to a different room, but an error quickly corrected.
Our corner room overlooked the banks of the Cosson, as opposed to the château, but with windows on two sides it was bright and airy. The bathroom was a bit tight, but everything worked out fine.
The only problem we found were a few insects, etc., but as the light faded, they all migrated to the windows, making them easy targets.
The reception had pre-booked a table on the terrace of the 'bistro' for 19:00 leaving us plenty of time to rest and shower before dinner. The weather was perfect, sunny and unusually warm for May 2022, so our meal on the terrace went perfectly. The view of the château was perfect, despite the constant work on the roof.
We started with a glass of Bollinger Rosé (a bit steep at €23 a glass), and with my meal I tried a glass of Chinon (€14/glass), which was decidedly average (my wife stayed with still water). My wife took "La salade gourmande du Relais de Chambord, jeunes pousses, oeuf mollet, quinoa et avocat", which just looked like it had been dumped in a bowl. She was unimpressed. I took the "Paleron de boeuf Black Angus, crémeux de pomp de Terre fumée". The meat was tasty, but the rest was almost non-existent.
My wife then took the "Pavlova, parfait glacé de passion et coriandre, et carottes confites" (above). It looked quite impressive, but getting through the floppy yellow thing meant almost destroying the entire dish. Then you were just eating a mess. My wife was unimpressed, and whilst the floppy yellow thing did add a bit of 'tang' to the dessert, its rubbery texture was out of place.
I took the "Tarte Tatin et sa crème fouettée", which again looked quite impressive. Fine, but lacking on two elements. The actual apple part lacked the caramelisation of a classic Tarte Tatin, and the 'crème fouettée' was not rich and tasty enough.
Service was fine, but appeared a bit rushed, and lacking 'finesse'.
We took an early breakfast in the breakfast room, the outside terrace was set for breakfast, but the air was still a bit fresh. Nothing much to say on the continental-style offering, it was good, and the orange 'jam' was out of this world. Perfection with freshly made croissants.
My wife and I had a tangy discussion about jam, marmalade, and …
Preserves are just a preparations of fruits whose main preserving agent is sugar and sometimes acid. They are often stored in glass jars and used as a condiment or spread. Preserves usually contain whole fruit or large pieces of fruit suspended in a firm-jelly or a less gelled fruit syrup.
Confit (a French term) is any food cooked slowly over a long period of time, as a method of preservation. A confiture is any fruit jam, marmalade, paste, sweetmeat, or fruit stewed in thick syrup.
Jam refers to a product made of whole fruit cut into pieces or crushed, then heated with water and sugar until it reaches "jelling" or "setting" point, which is achieved through the action of natural or added pectin. It is then sealed in containers. In jams, its the pectin that thickens the final product via cross-linking of large polymer chains. Recipes without added pectin use the natural pectin in the fruit to set. Tart apples, sour blackberries, cranberries, currants, gooseberries, Concord grapes, soft plums, and quinces work well in recipes without added pectin. Other fruits, such as apricots, blueberries, cherries, peaches, pineapple, raspberries, rhubarb, and strawberries are low in pectin. In order to set, or gel, they must be combined with one of the higher pectin fruits or used with commercially produced or homemade pectin.
A conserve is basically a way to preserve whole fruit, i.e. not letting the fruit 'break down' during cooking.
Marmalade is a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits boiled with sugar and water. e.g. Seville or bitter orange. It is also made from lemons, limes, grapefruits, mandarins, sweet oranges, bergamots, and other citrus fruits, or a combination. Unlike jam, a large quantity of water is added to the fruit in a marmalade, the extra liquid being set by the high pectin content of the fruit. In this respect it is like a jelly, but whereas the fruit pulp and peel is strained out of a jelly to give it its characteristic clarity, it is retained in a marmalade. Citrus rinds contain a ton of pectin, which is why marmalade oftentimes has a firmer texture more similar to jelly, and you often see pieces of citrus fruit suspended evenly throughout the jelly.
Compotes are made of whole fruit pieces, sugar, and, occasionally, spices like cinnamon and cloves. It is a cousin to preserves, and can be made with fresh or dried fruit. It is cooked low and slow in a sugar syrup so that the fruit pieces stay somewhat intact. They have no pectin, making the liquid looser than jam. Their chunky texture (which is the opposite of jellies') makes them perfect as fillings and toppings.
My wife was right (as always), my perfect, tangy orange 'jam' was more like a compote than a marmalade.
Our visit in December 2022
As I already noted in May 2022 the location of the hotel was "in the right place at the right moment". This time we just booked an overnight, as we drove south through France and towards Spain.
Our arrival at the hotel was identical to our previous visit, the only real different was the room. I think on our previous visit we had booked a Chambre Double Supérieure (Superior Double Room), and this time we booked "only" a chambre double - vue sur fleuve (Double Room with river view). The different with the superior room was only €20 and the difference in room size is between 25 square meters and only 18 square meters - so well worth the difference.
In May 2022 our larger corner room on the first floor, overlooked the banks of the Cosson. This time (December 2022) we were in a smaller room, in the roof on the second floor, but with a full length window also looking over the same river.
The bathroom was also a bit smaller and tight, but again for an overnight stay everything worked out fine.
In winter (December 2022) the terrace was closed, and dinner was hosted in one of the sitting rooms on the ground floor (not the breakfast room).
Monique took the risotto Carnaroli à la truffe noire de Périgord, or Carnaroli risotto with black truffle. She was not that impressed, but I thought it was quite tasty.
I took the cochon confit à la sauce barbecue, crémeux de haricot, saladine de saison, or pork confit with barbecue sauce, creamy beans, seasonal salad. It was fine, not outstanding, but certainly a decent meal. The real problem was that the main courses were limited to octopus confit, cod confit, pork confit, pot-au-feu, and a risotto.
For dessert my wife just took an ice cream, whereas I took the tarte tatin et sa crème fouettée. I had taken the same dessert during our last visit and was less than impressed, but this time the caramelisation of the apple was perfect, and the crème fouettée was rich and tasty.
Conclusion for visit December 2022
Broadly speaking this hotel is in "the right place at the right time" as we drive north or south through France. Next time it might be better to take a larger room, and hope that main courses on the menu are a little bit more interesting. Breakfast was a perfect replica of our previous visits.